Audio hardware information needed please

Discussion in 'Macintosh Computers' started by Charos, Feb 3, 2005.

  1. macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Jan 30, 2005
    #1
    Hello folks. We are PC users (mainly MIDI and audio) who are looking to changeover to a Mac environment, but are a little confused about what is required.
    With our PCs at present, we are accustomed to being able to plug in various devices directly into the ports connected to the sound card at the back of the PC.

    We don't require any other 'interfaces' or other hardware. There are Line In, Mic In,MIDI I/O, and also the usual Line Out.

    I have been to the Apple website to look at Garage Band and the Mac Mini, and the impression we get is that although there is obviously some kind of on-board sound (and a headphone socket on the Mac Mini) a further interface is required to connect equipment in order to get signals IN (by the USB ports in this case).

    From what I have seen of the multi-audio input devices, they appear to be a kind of external sound card with USB connection. This would be fair enough, though why Apple seem to leave this hardware out of a standard set up, I don't understand.
    But these audio interfaces don't seem to have any hardware synthesizers integrated, and this would leave just the software synthesizer in the Mac which would then have to be amplified.
    If this is the case (regarding the software synthesizer) then latency is unavoidable.

    Can someone here clear this matter up for us, and set us straight if our assumptions are wrong.

    Macs are fine pieces of equipment but they are somewhat more costly to buy than a PC setup. This could be justified if all necessary ports and hardware were included. However,if one then has to buy interfaces and other add-on gear it becomes less appealing, to someone wanting to change systems, especially if one's budget is limited.

    I would appreciate any links or directions to sites that could clear up our confusion. :confused:
     
  2. macrumors 68000

    varmit

    Joined:
    Aug 5, 2003
    #2
    Both have sound inputs. The Mac Mini's audio jack, is an in and out. PowerMac would be best for what you want to do and this is right off the website: "Optical digital audio input, optical digital audio output, analog audio input, analog audio output, front headphone minijack." http://www.apple.com/powermac/specs.html What input do you need, and there is most likely a connector that is pretty cheap that can switch it over to one of these types of ports.

    And the reason why they left some stuff out, is because not all people are musicians. More people use Macs just for gaphic design, so why would they need better sound stuff.
     
  3. jsw
    Moderator emeritus

    jsw

    Joined:
    Mar 16, 2004
    Location:
    Andover, MA
    #3
    No - it's headphone/line out. The mini has no built-in line in.
     
  4. jsw
    Moderator emeritus

    jsw

    Joined:
    Mar 16, 2004
    Location:
    Andover, MA
    #4
    The eMac is closer to what you want, except that it too doesn't have mic in (the mic's built in) or MIDI I/O. There are no Macs with built-in MIDI support. To get MIDI support, there are adapters for $50 (or maybe less - I just went the the Apple Store and searched for MIDI.
     
  5. macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Aug 15, 2003
    Location:
    Buffalo, NY
    #5
    If you're really doing any audio work for profit, why are you using on-board sound of any kind? The quality generally isn't as good. 3rd party audio interfaces have been around for years, first in the form of PCI cards and now into FireWire and USB. I don't know what kind of work you do, but any new interface from MOTU, Digidesign, M-Audio, etc. will serve you much better than any on-board hardware.

    Unless you're using only MIDI and software synthesizers, then I could understand not having an interface. And if you haven't had an interface and are successful in what you do, why start now?

    I guess if you told exactly what kind of work you do (audio and/or MIDI) then it would make more sense.

    cpjakes
     
  6. macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Jul 1, 2002
    #6
    Your not going to find built in MIDI on a mac but they've had audio on board since the Flintstones were dropping bird beeks on vinyl. And generally the macs built in audio is of higher quality (less noise, etc) than your average pc.

    Depending on your needs (and I have no idea exactly what they are) there are a huge range of hardware audio/midi options. Ranging anywhere from $60 for basic audio or midi capabilties to $1500 for incredible i/o capabilities and converters. And on the pc side many people will use some of this exact same gear.

    If you just plan on using garageband for basic work you might want to look at the keyboard controllers made by Edirol and m-audio that provide midi and audio interfaces in one unit.

    There's are a lot of great resources out there, I would suggest doing some research to help figure out exactly what you need so you can be happy within your budget.

    http://audiomidi.com/
    http://www.motu.com
    http://www.osxaudio.com
    http://www.tweakheadz.com/
     
  7. thread starter macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Jan 30, 2005
    #7
    Thanks so much for all your help and good advice folks.

    Sorry I didn't give more of a run down on our requirements, it was such a long post, I forgot the basic courtesies!

    We are dedicated and enthusiastic amateurs on a limited budget (we are retired on a pension) and so cost is a major factor.

    We do mainly MIDI but with some audio and currently our studio system has a PCI audio card with a Yamaha chipset (now almost impossible to get).

    I can understand the need for dedicated add-ons when one is going for a better quality product output (that goes without saying) but I am surprised that there isn't a little more "straight out of the box" capability with the modest-end Macs, (like MIDI functionality- MIDI ports etc) since one of the things I like most about Macs (and always have) is their true "works right out of the box" atitude to the rest of the of their software and hardware.

    I am happy to buy whatever it takes to get what we need (within reason,pricewise) but have to do more homework (obviously) because it is rather a different environment to work in than we are used to with the PCs and this difficulty with MIDI import and export is another thing we must learn more about too.

    I will explore the links given and do some more research.

    Many thanks :)
     
  8. Moderator emeritus

    WinterMute

    Joined:
    Jan 19, 2003
    Location:
    London, England
    #8
    The real reason Macs don't have proper audio or midi built in to the system is an agreement between Apple computers and Apple records in the 70's I think, where Apple records agreed to let Apple keep the name as long as their products had nothing to do with music...

    At the time, no-one thought computers would be useful to anyone but experimental musicians, so the contract was made.

    Now there's a court-case and it's going to get ugly.

    ON TOPIC:

    It's a much better idea to have an external audio interface because of earthing and noise issues, plus audio requires a very good power supply, which most computer PSUs cant supply.

    Take a look at some of the controller keyboard options, M-audio do a USB connecting keyboard with audio and midi connections.

    What software are you planning to run on your Mac?
     
  9. macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Aug 15, 2003
    Location:
    Buffalo, NY
    #9
    Also, why the reason for the change? Is it time for a more powerful computer and you're deciding to make the switch? Or is it a software reason?

    While we'd all be welcome to having new Mac converts, I still say if it ain't broke, don't fix it.

    cpjakes
     
  10. macrumors 601

    zimv20

    Joined:
    Jul 18, 2002
    Location:
    chicago
  11. macrumors 68040

    patrick0brien

    Joined:
    Oct 24, 2002
    Location:
    The West Loop
    #11
    -Charos

    I just completed this aventure of looking for a multi-in Firewire interface for Audio and MIDI. Having gon through M-Audio, MOTU, and Edirol, I found that the MOTU 828 MkII the best for my needs.

    M-Audio FireWire 1814

    MOTU 828 MkII

    Edirol FA-101

    My needs: 8 channels concurrent analog in @96khzx24bit to Logic 7 with option for second unit to allow for 16 channel in.

    Use iMac G5 17" Superdrive w/2gbRAM - dedicated computer.

    Notes: Recording 8 concurrent +MIDI instruments (in Logic) and a load of effects live really doesn't stress the machine - fans do spin up a little, but say 50% and the CPU monitor shows 50% usage as well. Though with a few Sculpture Intruments through Sound Designer can peg it (heavy crap).

    I have yet to peg the machine with unmixed audio though - I'm up to 50-something concurrent recorded tracks at 96khz X 24bit and the machine barely notices (external Mirrired RAID array).

    Also, hardware-wise, the MOTU dropped right in. I was expecting a Saturday of frustration (old fears) and the damn thing just went right in - so fast in fact, I hadn't bolted it into the rack yet (expecting unplugging and stuff - and I had a full 30-track song with vocals recorded and mastered to iTunes in 6 hours.
     
  12. thread starter macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Jan 30, 2005
    #12
    Thank you all once again.

    We were looking at a Mac change initially when the Mac mini came out as a low cost opportunity to try out the Mac environment in general.

    We later heard about Garage Band and thought it might be worth checking that out too, and if we found it suitable, to keep the mini as a dedicated music editing and sequencing machine in addition to our PCs (which are pretty new).

    Our current systems are Dual Pentium 4, 3.0GHz, with 512 Mb DDR RAM and 80 GB HDD, and 128Mb Radeon graphics cards, LiteOn DVD burners, and my husband's machine has an AOpen Sound Card with a Yamaha YMF744Pro chipset (XG Compatible ). He also has the Yamaha PSR1100 keyboard and his guitars (custom built himself)
    I use the onboard sound since my machine is mainly used for image editing (photography). All with XP Pro.

    The software we use is Yamaha's XG Works which is an excellent sequencer.

    But we are always ready to try new things, but not without doing our homework first, hence all these long-winded questions.

    And certainly - it isn't broke,so we aren't fixin' it - we love our PCs but it is all about the music, so we keep looking at whatever is happening and whatever we can do to make it better, more fun, simpler etc.etc. :)
     
  13. Moderator emeritus

    WinterMute

    Joined:
    Jan 19, 2003
    Location:
    London, England
    #13
    It's a real shame Digidesign won't support other hardware for ProTools, I'd have the 896 in a flash, it's a better sounding unit that the 002, and I really don't want to shell out for an HD system for the home studio, although it's looking increasingly like LE simply won't handle the kind of post-pro and mix projects I have running, plus it still won't do surround....

    I understand Digi's thinking, but it's frustrating, particularly as I don't need all the sequencing power of Logic or DP4...
     
  14. macrumors 68040

    patrick0brien

    Joined:
    Oct 24, 2002
    Location:
    The West Loop
    #14
    -Charos

    Very understandable. But at least now, from this thread, you have an upgrade path for usage in the future. And it's going to be scary to see what's around when it's time to fix something that is broke.

    -WinterMute

    Hit the nail on the head for me. Some might prefer the 'we have everything you need in one shop' aspect to ProTools, but I love the flexibility that Logic gives me will all of the standard parts floating about..
     
  15. macrumors 6502a

    g30ffr3y

    Joined:
    Jul 18, 2002
    Location:
    buffalo ny
    #15
    MOTU 828MKII is hot...

    thats what i run with logic 6...
     

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